Clarke and McShane hold their nerve to earn Ballycastle a point

Ballygalget 0-15 Mc Quillan 0-15

2018 Division 2 Champions, McQuillans Ballycastle made their return to the top tier of Antrim Hurling earning themselves a share of the points at a windswept Ballygalget.

Such was the strength of the wind at the Ards peninsula venue that one could have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be a game of two very one-sided halves. Both defences were tested to their limits by the difficult conditions and by each other in what was a very intense hard fought slog.

Playing against the wind it was the Ballycastle men who opened the scoring in the first minute with a pointed free from Ciaran Clarke, a lead which was short lived as the ‘Galget men equalised immediately with the next attack. Two points from Ballygalget free taker Conor Doran fell either side of a Ciaran Clarke pointed free. 

The Co Down men pressed hard to make the most of their wind advantage, adding three unanswered points, however a resilient Ballycastle defence aided by Kevin Barry McShane now acting as an extra defender began to manfully curtail the best of their efforts.

 A Ciaran Clarke point from play, punctuated two pointed place ball efforts from the home side, the pick of these being a spectacular side line cut from ace marksman Conor Doran.

An equally spectacular effort from an extremely tight angle saw Owen Kinney open his scoring account for Ballycastle keeping the visitors within touching distance on the scoreboard.

Points from ‘Magic’ Johnston and James Doran stretched the lead to five before two further Ballycastle points from Ciaran Clarke rounded off the half.

Half time score Ballygalget 0-9 McQuillan 0-6. 

Diarmuid McShane who hit two excellent points in Ballycastle’s drawn game in Ballygalget

Ciaran Clarke reduced the deficit to two, before Diarmuid McShane caught a puck out and scored a superb reflex point and it looked as if the visitors were set to kick on with the elements now in their favour in the second half. However Conor Doran and Daniel Toner points maintained the advantage for the home side.

Ronan McCarry and Ciaran Butler reduced the deficit back to a single point but again Ballygalget answered via a Doran converted free.

Two Ciaran Clarke frees drew the sides level going into the final ten minutes, and the Castle looked hungry to secure the win, a Diarmuid McShane effort seemed to have given the Town the lead, however with one umpire raising the white flag and the other signalling wide, the referee opted to go with the latter to the disappointment of the travelling fans.

The scoreboard pendulum was to swing three times in Ballygalget’s favour before the end, but each time the Town managed to equalise, the pick of the equalisers coming from Diarmuid McShane who repeated his earlier exploit  catching a directly from a  puck out before slotting the sliothar between the posts.

Going into the final minute Doran looked to have secured both points for the home side, but on the stroke of full time Ciaran Clarke showed serious nerve to slot the free and round off a game where wind conditions prevented either side from hitting top gear.

Ballygalget:  J Crowe, Paul McManus, O Clarke, Peter McManus, J McGrath, B Toner, M Fisher, J Doran, C Watson, G Roddy, D Toner, C Doran,  C Coulter, G Johnston, A Doran

McQuillan: R McGarry, O Kearney, M Donnelly, S Kelly, T McIlroy, C Boyd, O McAuley, J McLister, R McCarry(0-1), C Butler(0-1), C Clarke (0-10) (8 frees), T Butler, D McShane(0-2), K.B. McShane, O Kinney (0-1)  Subs: E Elliott for O McAuley, L Donnelly for T Butler.

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